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Are You Prepared to File for Divorce

According to leading legal research website, Westlaw, March is the peak month for divorce filings.  Divorce filings uptick in January and reach a crescendo in March. This phenomenon is no doubt related to new year’s resolutions and people’s commitment to take action and make the changes they feel are necessary in their lives.  The question I ask all of my prospective divorce clients is, “Are you prepared to file for divorce?” Most clients are not.

I often advise new clients to do some homework before we pull the trigger. I recommend they get copies of tax returns, their spouse’s pay stubs or other pay documentation, checking, investment and retirement account statements as well as credit card statements.  A treasure trove for the divorce attorney is your spouse’s personal financial statement prepared for the banker each year. If there is a prenup, get a copy of it before it disappears.  The caveat is to just copy these documents and return them to their original condition so as to not arouse your spouse’s suspicion.
It is equally important to have a “divorce war chest.”  Because divorce cases can drag on for over a year, it is important to have enough money set aside to support yourself and pay your lawyer. If you can’t do both, then you’ll be at a disadvantage. Sometimes it’s necessary to pull money from a joint equity line or savings account; however, this should only be done when you’re ready to file and/or move out, if necessary. I describe it to my clients as orchestrating the divorce—draw the cash from the equity line or joint account, move out and file for divorce all on the same day.  The main downside of this plan is that it sets a bad tone for the rest of the litigation.
Future financial security is the goal of most divorcing spouses. You’re not in high school any more so trashing your spouse’s proverbial locker without regard for the consequences is not a prudent course of action. If you learn that your spouse is cheating, start planning…not erupting.

Posted February 27, 2015